Cream Cheese-Avocado Toast with Scrambled Eggs

It’s a rather sad fact, but most people choose to eat the same or nearly the same breakfast every day — or at least several times a week. There are scientific, sociological, and emotional reasons for this (We have less time, don’t want to waste energy, need healthful sustenance to balance other meals, desire a lot of consistency…) You can ask anyone, “What do you eat for breakfast?” The answer will generally be one thing or at the most two. “I eat oatmeal.” “Eggs and toast.” (And the eggs will be cooked the same way each time, I’d wager.) Whereas should you ask the same person what they eat for lunch or dinner, the answer will be long, varied. Lots of folks are continually looking for something new to cook. It’s funny (peculiar), but understandable.

Perhaps because I love cooking, my breakfast changes regularly. I find that fact fun, entertaining, and encouraging. I’m sure I come out of it with a wider variety of nutrition, too. It’s also true I’m retired from a full-time job requiring my presence on the desk at 8am every morning. I don’t even have kids at home needing a helpful shove out the door. Dogs? Yes. They’re however generally fed and walked by my better half, leaving me to spend any amount of time I’d like sussing out sustenance like Cream Cheese-Avocado Toast come morning. If you have a toaster and a skillet, you have the equipment necessary for this lovely, filling, and pretty breakfast. (Grill the toast in the skillet and you don’t need a toaster.) Let’s face it, you could eat this morning, noon, or night. Add some fruit, a Mimosa or Bloody Mary and you have brunch if you’d like. Sweet.

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Sour Cream of Asparagus Soup with Tarragon

More picnic food!

Every year or two, there’s a new version of cold asparagus soup in my kitchen. Recently, when asparagus was on sale for a song (what else is $1.49 a pound these days?), I made it twice in one week and decided it was high time to update the recipe for the summer of 2022.  I know soup seems cold weather-ish sort of food, but truly it’s not. If you skip around the blog, you’ll see soup in beaucoup variations because to cook seasonally (or even if you don’t), is to find ingredients just perfect for soups and stews summer, fall, winter, and spring. And occasionally a pot of cold weather bean soup or beef stew calls your name about mid-July when grilling is feeling a tish tiresome or a chilly wind and rain hits town. At that point, you give in and stir up all the warm goodness you can in a great big pot.

I make asparagus soup (hot or cold depending on the month) nearly anytime because we have Fed Ex asparagus January – December. And while asparagus is an early spring favorite vegetable in most areas, it has yet to arrive in full force in Colorado yards, though it also grows wild according to one faithful local reader… My second-year plants are beautifully ferny, but no stalks yet I’m sad to say. Next year in Jerusalem.

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Curried Chicken Salad Sandwiches for Picnic Time

Being known as a cook within your varied social circles has its distinct advantages. You get to bring what you like ( or make best) to the neighborhood potluck, the family birthday, or the church funeral lunch. Not terribly long before Covid (Are we saying that now?), I catered a funeral meal. The family involved was generous about letting me know their much-loved patriarch LOVED things like ham salad, chicken salad, etc. To keep the buffet interesting, I included CURRIED CHICKEN SALAD SANDWICHES. One lady — someone I’d trust — approached me to allow that my CURRIED CHICKEN SALAD was better than a top-shelf local restaurant’s version. I didn’t forget that. Who would, huh?

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Greek Salmon Pasta Salad

I like to cook almost as well as anyone you know, but I also enjoy days when dinner is done and in the fridge, ready to go — especially come summer. (Though I’d admit real summer has yet to arrive in Colorado–no complaints.) Instead of turning on the stove, I can crawl up into my comfy reading chair with its humongous hassock, fall into my latest mystery or sleazy novel, and sip something very, very cold indeed. Typically, and you know this, it’s a pot of soup that has me all comfortably cozy-lazy with the latest Ruth Galloway (Elly Griffiths) or Louise Penny’s most recent Gamache thriller. But recently I’ve discovered a nice stash of protein heavy pasta salad will do the trick just as well. I like to bring a mammoth, heavenly pasta salad to a potluck or cookout (a great one-dish side) or on a road trip, but come hot weather, it’s happy at home right in my kitchen fridge just waiting for me to get hungry. With a little extra meat, cheese, beans, or fish, my salad feels perfect for dinner and leftovers are then easy offerings for lunch. Did I mention they’re whole meal deals? Nothing else is needed. Well, wine.

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Tuscan Chicken Stew (Revisited)

It might seem an odd thing to blog hot soup on the 31st of May, but let’s remember I live in Colorado where we had a foot of snow a week ago, enjoyed a temperature of 40 degrees F when I drank my morning coffee this morning, and are still peering out to see if the thermometer has risen above 60 F this afternoon. (It has not.) The sun is lovely; I’ll give you that. The wind, however, is once more a ________. Let’s just say we call her Mariah and let it go at that. But we Rocky Mountain folk are a long way from the cold food weeks of the year when it’s salad, chilled soup, or sandwich time unless we’re grilling or ordering takeout. That means it’s still hot soup weather for me. (Truth in blogging, you know I’ll make soup anytime.) My Tuscan Chicken Stew Revisited, featured this week, is from my now 8-year old soup book, but somehow never made it on to the blog and needs to be here — if only because it’s a steady visitor in my kitchen and is a delicious easy-fast meal. Over the years of making it for us for dinner, ferrying pots to sick friends, or stirring up a double or triple batch for families experiencing homelessness in our city, it’s morphed in more than one sweet direction. Still often the filling, whole-meal chicken minestrone sort of soup, I’ve sometimes added Italian sausage and other times skipped meat entirely, tipping in extra beans and some tiny pasta at the end. Additional vegetables find their way in when available and it’s not unheard of to see a few croutons perching on top if bread needs using. After Thanksgiving, it’s been made bass-ackwards with leftover shredded turkey stirred in at the end. I’ve even made it with ground chicken, one of my favorite unsung ingredient heroes.

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Asparagus-Potato Salad

So many memorable old phrases I enjoy using, fine writer that I am. One is, “No good deed goes unpunished.” Another might be, “Birds of a feather flock together.” Which must, of course, be followed by, “Opposites attract.” Following those for no reason at all is, “Great minds think alike.” Which is what I say when I make a dish off the top of my head and begin to write the recipe before realizing I cooked the same (or nearly the same) thing 10 (5 or 15) years ago. Thank goodness “Love is Lovelier the Second Time Around,” (a favorite wedding song of mine) and I absolutely don’t mind “reinventing the wheel.” Roll your eyes now or forever hold your peace. Ok, I’m done. But I really did make almost this very same salad in 2014, though its current appearance is quite distinct from the first and today’s recipe title is “Asparagus-Potato Salad” rather than, “Roasted Potato-Asparagus Salad with Mushrooms and Sweet Onions.” Same difference. Just about.

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Strawberry Jam Filled Blueberry Bread

Makes a perfect gift loaf for a new neighbor, a sick friend, a birthday, or even the Memorial Day cookout.

It is not yet the height of blueberry season, but we’re getting closer. If you watch the labels on your blueberries closely, you’ll notice during our winter months they first come from South America, then Central America, followed by our southern U.S. states, and on northward until we get to Canada come early fall — when we must wait a bit to begin the cycle all over again. I’ll eat this gorgeous fruit anytime of the year, but am especially berry in love when it’s time for the berries from the northern spots like Oregon, Washington, Minnesota, Michigan, or Canada. That’s because berries like cool nights and I think those cooler northern places grow top shelf fruit. When blueberries are especially plentiful and the tastiest, they’re also at their least expensive. That lets me know it’s time to buy a bunch and freeze enough to last until next summer. And while we’re not there yet, I had already bought more than my husband could eat at breakfast on his yogurt with my homemade granola. They were beginning to soften and were even thinking of getting those stinky little white rings of mold on their bottoms. Two cups of near-heaven superfood needed to be saved. So one cup is enough for a dozen muffins; two cups calls for a loaf of blueberry bread. In this case I had a little strawberry jam called my baking name out loud as well, so I thought I’d tuck that into the center of the loaf and call it Strawberry Jam Filled Blueberry Bread, which is (you’re right) a mouthful. But no other name seemed to fit and I’m stuck with it. Thank goodness, because the name says exactly what it is and if that’ll make you preheat the oven and stir this up, I’m good. I do think any jam would do — even blueberry — but I happened to have the tail end of a jar of Bonne Maman strawberry preserves, which served royally well. (TIP: I reuse their jars as storage containers for months or even years as they are glass, go through the dishwasher, and come with tight, long-lasting red and white picnic-checked lids.)

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Bratwurst-Lentil Soup

There’s no reason bratwurst should only be consumed grilled and on a sturdy bun with sauerkraut, spicy mustard, and onions that have, of course, been cooked in beer. In Germany, you just get a tiny piece of rye bread with which to hold your wurst, none of this big old fat sandwich business…and I digress. But sure, there are tons of other ways to use bratwurst and other link sausages, too. If you’re camping, for instance, and happen to have cooked bratwurst, you think nothing of slicing it into a pan of creamy scrambled eggs because you’re not throwing that out, ok, and there’s not enough for lunch. At home, you might mix a few leftover bites into a kitchen sink pasta salad for a fast dinner or throw together a big slow cooker full of brats and sauerkraut when friends are coming to play cards or even make a sheet pan dinner with brats and veggies. I’m partial to cooked bratwurst cut into chunks, stuck with toothpicks, and served up with a couple of different sauces (including spicy mustard!) for a meaty app. If it’s soup night (usually Thursday at our house), I could (and did) sauté a bunch of sliced bratwurst coins, add veggies, broth and lentils, et voilà, time to get out the bowls, pour the wine, and enjoy Bratwurst-Lentil Soup!

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KIDS BAKE MOTHER’S DAY: Apple-Pecan Coffeecake

What is it about making brunch at home that feels extravagant and comfy all at the same time? We’re all over planning changeable, healthy dinner meals complete with menus, shopping lists, and Sunday prep, but morning fare is relegated to nearly the same dish over and over again. Folks literally eat oatmeal for breakfast every single day. Or peanut butter toast. Yogurt and granola. Whatever. But take us to a swank brunch buffet at a fancy hotel and we’re putting soft poached eggs on smoked salmon dill biscuits and snarfing down raspberries in Grand Marnier with dark chocolate waffles as if there were no tomorrow. And then there’s the bottomless mimosa, isn’t there? When we finally decide to put on an at-home morning spread–for Mother’s Day, say?– that takes more thoughtful preparation than slamming down bread in the toaster and manage some actual day-before cooking or baking, it’s amazing how pampered-rich, how homey and cosseted we feel. Kinda like, “Well, isn’t this nice?!” And it is.

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Colorado Springs Omelet

Here in Colorado and perhaps even elsewhere in the U.S., there’s no diner breakfast more famous than the Denver Omelet — except maybe biscuits and gravy. You know how the Denver Omelet goes — lots of browned onions, green peppers, diced ham and some ooey-gooey orange cheese. It should be cooked firm and golden brown unlike the pale and buttery French omelets. And while I’m totally fond of a Denver omelet or a French omelet (mushrooms, please), for that matter, I have for quite a while enjoyed a different sort of southwestern egg breakfast here in my kitchen in Colorado Springs. My tender little elegant omelet is whisked with salsa rather than cream or water. It’s cooked slowly and gently in a covered skillet rather than at breakneck speed with constant whisking in an open pan à la française (like the French). Occasionally I turn the burner off toward the end, but leave the covered pan on it for another minute or two to slowly finish cooking my omelet. Good trick to have up your sleeve for any eggs (and some other things, too) you make to avoid an overcooked fry-up.

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